I think if there is one thing business owners need to take away from this year’s national day rally, it is to take care of your health.

Yes, business is important. You can’t hire quickly enough.

There are too many fires to fight. But just like why you should put on your life vest before putting them on your kids during an air emergency, you can’t take care of anything if something happens to you.

This was pretty much hammered in before the unexpected one-hour interval after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suddenly took ill and had to rest. Imagine if that had been much worse.

We would be in a mode of panic.

Because once something does happen, it is pretty much game over if we don’t have a Plan B.

The only constant is change

With the beginning of PM Lee’s speech on the disruptive changes brought upon by Uber, Grab, and groceries delivery companies, the emphasis is to take heed of the constant changes that are brought upon the market.

We can choose to become a protectionist and prevent these disruptive businesses from coming in.

Or we could embrace them with open arms and see how we can leverage and partner them to achieve a win-win situation.

And that is the centre of the Committee on the Future Economy co-chaired by ministers Heng Swee Keat and S Iswaran.

Over the rally speech, we got a glimpse of what to expect:


1. Building new capabilities: Is your workforce ready to scale up?

Companies such as Ascent Solutions and HOPE Technik were mentioned.

The common denominator between the two of them is that their markets have expanded beyond just Singapore.

Ascent Solutions is making inroads into Africa’s transport industry, and HOPE Technik beat other top engineering firms to secure a contract with Airbus.

With a population of slightly more than 5 million people, the Singapore market is too small and risky for many businesses.

The ability to sell your products and services beyond Singapore will not only help to spread risks out but also provide much larger opportunities to grow your business and your human capital.

IE Singapore already provides assistance to local SMEs who are in the right market that allows them to go outside of Singapore.

However, can your local workforce adapt to the scaling up of your business?

Do your staff have the know-how to operate in regional and global markets?

SMEs can speak to NTUC to find out what support they can get for their workforce, be it overcoming manpower challenges (via U-SME), gaining industry knowledge (via e2i), or networking with business leaders (via U Future Leaders).


2. Promoting local entrepreneurship

To scale beyond Singapore, it is important to invent and test out new ideas.

And that could only be possible by providing a conducive environment for aspiring/entrepreneurs.

In Singapore, that is none other than JTC Launchpad.

Also known as Blk 71, 73, and 79, it houses a large number of incubators, accelerators, and investors to provide the appropriate assistance for entrepreneurs who like to bring their next world-domination idea to fruition.

With a new block of buildings close to completion, I am expecting to see more government support in this area.

Even though the very popular iJams grant is no longer available, I’m quite confident a new iteration would appear soon to help more people make the leap of faith into entrepreneurship.

Startups can leverage on NTUC’s foray into startups, called U Startup, which aims to help startups gain more opportunities, access to mentors and business leaders, and better profiling as a viable career option.


3. Developing skills for the future workforce

You can imagine the zero demand for drivers once nuTonomy perfects their self-driven car technology.

What jobs can displaced professionals transition across to?

Currently, there are programmes under Adapt and Grow, the Professional Conversion Programmes, and the Career Support Programme (CSP) to help bridge that gap.

I’m hoping we could start using Big Data and Data visualisation (just like in the case of ActiveSG gyms) to help us spot work trends (e.g. more retrenchments from specific industries, more demand in data scientist roles, etc.).

With this information at our fingertips, intervention could come in earlier and nip the problem in the bud.

With an eye on what is to come technologically, I believe courses at tertiary levels will be introduced/adjusted/dropped to ensure our future workforce are future-relevant and plug-and-play straight into what the future economies require.

Three major Singapore universities have already begun collaborating with the Labour Movement on such plug-and-play courses which are nimble enough to adapt as industries evolve.

In 2016 alone:

  • March: SMU partnered NTUC to develop customised courses to groom future leaders
  • May: NTU and NTUC launched courses to keep PMEs updated on latest knowledge and skills
  • June: NUS launched the School of Continuing and Lifelong Education, partners e2i to identify and address skills gaps

The best Michelin chef can’t make a world-class dish without the freshest ingredients.

Likewise, our attempts to create more entrepreneurs and helping them to bring their market overseas would amount to nothing if the people do not have the right skill sets and gumption to make it work.

Originally published on Singapore Business Review